The British Herpetological Society


The Herpetological Journal

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

The 2014 impact factor of the Herpetological Journal (released end June 2015) is 0.90. 

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Folder Volume 26, Number 2, April 2016

pdf 01. Nest attendance influences the diet of nesting female spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) in Central Amazonia, Brazil


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pp. 65- 71

Authors: José António Lemos Barão-Nóbrega, Boris Marioni, Diogo Dutra-Araújo, Robinson Botero-Arias, António J.A. Nogueira, William E. Magnusson & Ronis Da Silveira

Abstract: Although nesting ecology is well studied in crocodilians, there is little information on the diet and feeding habits of nesting females. During the annual dry season (November–December) of 2012, we studied the diet of female spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) attending nests (n=33) and far from nests (n=16) in Piagaçu-Purus Sustainable Development Reserve (PPSDR), Central Amazonia, Brazil. The proportion of empty stomachs in nest-attending females was larger, and the occurrence of fresh food items was lower when compared to females not attending nests. Fish was the most frequent prey item for non-nesting females, while terrestrial invertebrates and snail operculae were the prey items most commonly recovered from stomachs of nesting females. Our study demonstrates that, despite enduring periods of food deprivation associated with nest attendance, nesting females of C. crocodilus still consume nearby available prey, possibly leaving their nest temporarily unattended.

Key words: Amazonia, diet, feeding, nest, parental care, spectacled caiman

pdf 02. Appendix


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Online appendix for 02. Effects of habitat and fragmented-landscape parameters on amphibian distribution at a large spatial scale.

pdf 02. Effects of habitat and fragmented-landscape parameters on amphibian distribution at a large spatial scale


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pp. 73-84

Authors: Audrey Trochet, Jérémy Dechartre, Hugo Le Chevalier, Boris Baillat, Olivier Calvez, Simon Blanchet & Alexandre Ribéron

Abstract: Amphibians generally have low dispersal abilities and are often habitat specialised, which makes them particularly sensitive to landscape changes, such as habitat destruction and fragmentation. Because they depend on wetlands for breeding, many conservation studies focus on aquatic habitat degradation and destruction. Additionally, few studies showed that changes in terrestrial habitats could be another threat that may cause the decline of amphibian populations. However, little is known about the terrestrial habitat preferences of most species. Although the proximity of forests and wetlands was expected to be positively related to amphibian presence, while human-modified habitats were expected to be avoided by these species, we still have little information on how these responses are species-specific. Based on an ecological niche factor analysis completed by partial least squares path modelling, we tested whether or not relationships between terrestrial and aquatic habitat parameters and occurrences are congruent across a metacommunity of seven amphibian species co-occurring at the regional spatial scale. We highlight that habitat type could strongly affect amphibian presence at large spatial scales, but in different ways. Agricultural landscapes, semi-natural areas and fragmented-landscape parameters showed expected negative correlations with the presence of some species. However, these habitats were also positively associated to the presence of other species. Indeed, because they could offer some benefits, some species could show a preference for these landscapes. Our results should have implications in conservation programmes, and could help predict future distribution and responses of these species to global change, which could be different among species.

Key words: agricultural landscapes, amphibian presence, ecological niche factor analysis, habitat preference, landscape parameters, partial least squares path modeling

pdf 03. Quantitative analysis of courtship and mating behaviours in the big-headed turtle, Platysternon megacephalum


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pp. 85-91

Authors: Yufeng Wei, Shiping Gong, Haitao Shi & Weiye Li

Abstract: Turtles are an excellent group for understanding the theory of sexual selection, sexual dimorphism and the evolution of courtship behaviour. Asia has a rich diversity of turtle species, but quantitative analysis of courtship behaviour has only been conducted on a single species. This study quantitatively analysed courtship and mating behaviours of captive Platysternon megacephalum to serve as a basis for future comparisons with other freshwater turtles. A total of 259 courtship behaviour sequences stemming from 66 pairings between 12 males and 24 females were analysed. Seven (approaching, sniffing, chasing, resting, mounting, subduing female, copulating) and three mutually exclusive motor patterns (fleeing, mating resistance, mating acceptance) were performed by males and females, respectively. The temporal sequences of courtship and mating behaviours were analysed using Chi-square tests and Kappa analyses, from which a flow diagram was constructed. Male courtship display patterns involved tactile, visual and olfactory cues for conspecific and sexual recognition. In response, females may have emitted olfactory cues regarding their sex and reproductive status. Male P. megacephalum exhibited biting, but no head movement or foreclaw display in courtship, which differs from other freshwater turtles. This study provides the first record of male biting during courtship behaviour in an Asian turtle species. Recommendations for captive breeding of the endangered species P. megacephalum are presented.

Key words: Asia, behavioural sequences, biting, cinematographic techniques, kappa analysis, Platysternidae

pdf 04. Fisheries impact on breeding of olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) along the Gahirmatha coast, Bay of Bengal, Odisha, India


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pp. 93-98 

Authors: Satyaranjan Behera1, Basudev Tripathy, K. Sivakumar, Binod C. Choudhury
& Bivash Pandav

Abstract: In India, the Gahirmatha coast is among the most important nesting grounds of olive ridley turtles, Lepidochelys olivacea. The coastal waters of Odisha are also subjected to heavy commercial fishing activities, leading to turtle-fisheries conflicts. This study was carried out to quantify the effects of fishing on breeding turtles. Data on stranded, dead turtles were collected during three breeding seasons (2007–08, 2008–09 and 2009–10) between November and April along a 35 km stretch. A total of 13,443 dead olive ridleys were counted (2008–09: n=9502, 2007–08: n=2754, 2009–10: n=1187). Maximum mortality occurred in February. Few strandings of dead male turtles were recorded. Stranded turtles had a curved carapace length between 51.3 and 77 cm. Mortality is largely attributed to drowning in trawl nets and caused by gill nets. A decrease in size of adults may be related to their high mortality.

Key words: breeding, fishing, mortality, Lepidochelys olivacea, olive ridley, size class

pdf 05. Species assignment in the Pelophylax ridibundus x P. perezi hybridogenetic complex based on 16 newly characterised microsatellite markers


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pp. 99-108

Authors: Gregorio Sánchez-Montes, Ernesto Recuero, Jorge Gutiérrez-Rodríguez, Ivan Gomez-Mestre & Iñigo Martínez-Solano

Abstract: Pelophylax perezi is an Iberian green waterfrog with high tolerance to habitat alteration that at times shows local population growth and demographic expansion, even where other species decline. However, pond destruction, invasive predators and hybridisation with other European waterfrog species (P. ridibundus) threaten many of its populations across its range. Hybrids of P. perezi and P. ridibundus (P. kl. grafi) can breed successfully with the former parental species after discarding the whole P. perezi genome in the germinal line, thus representing a sexual parasite for P. perezi. However, little is known about the extent of the contact zone of this hybridogenetic complex. Due to the morphological similarity of the three taxa, molecular tools are needed to delineate their respective ranges. Here we characterise a set of 16 microsatellite markers specifically developed for P. perezi. These markers showed moderate to high polymorphism (2–17 alleles/locus) in two populations from central Spain (n=20 and n=23), allowing individual identification of frogs. Seven of these markers cross-amplified in individuals of P. ridibundus from southern France (3–8 alleles/locus). These markers were used to genotype samples along a transect from southern France to eastern Spain, encompassing both pure and hybrid individuals. Sample assignment to each taxon was based on the new microsatellite loci and compared with nuclear and mitochondrial sequence data. Our results show that these markers are useful to distinguish P. ridibundus, P. perezi and the hybrid form P. kl. grafi from each other, even when sample sizes are low. The newly characterised markers will also be useful in demographic and phylogeographic studies in P. perezi and are thus a valuable tool for evolutionary and conservation oriented research.

Key words: cross-amplification, hybridisation, microsatellites, Pelophylax kl. grafi, Pelophylax perezi, Pelophylax ridibundus

pdf 06. Appendix

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Online appendex for 06. Genetic differentiation and population dynamics of Alpine salamanders (Salamandra atra, Laurenti 1768) in Southeastern Alps and Dinarides

pdf 06. Genetic differentiation and population dynamics of Alpine salamanders (Salamandra atra, Laurenti 1768) in Southeastern Alps and Dinarides


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pp. 109-117

Authors: Andrej Razpet, Emina Šunje, Belma Kalamujić, Una Tulić, Naris Pojskić, David Stanković, Imre Krizmanić & Saša Marić

Abstract: The genetic structure of Alpine salamander (Salamandra atra, Laurenti 1768) populations in the Dinarides with respect to continuous populations in the Alps is still poorly understood. To compare Dinaric populations with the nearest Alpine populations, eleven populations were genotyped using seven microsatellite loci. Two major groups were detected: a more diverse Alpine group in the Steiner and Julian Alps, and a less diverse Dinaric group. The Pokljuka population was assigned to the Dinaric group despite its geographical location in the Alps, placing the divide between major groups north of the southern Alpine orographic boundary. Bottlenecks dated at the end of the last glaciation event were suggested for Alpine populations, but not for Dinaric populations. Genetic signatures of migration were detected within Dinaric and Alpine regions, but not between them. Populations from the Prenj Mountain (Bosnia-Herzegovina), where the subspecies S. atra prenjensis was described, were not genetically distinct from other Dinaric populations. These results suggest that, if the taxon remains valid, S. atra prenjensis should include the entire Dinarides as well as the Pokljuka population located in the Alps.

Key words: Alpine salamander, Alps, Dinarides, genetic diversity, microsatellites, population history

pdf 07. Reproductive biology of the southernmost Kentropyx lizard from the Wet Chaco of Corrientes, Argentina


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pp. 119-130

Authors: Martín A. Ortiz, Jorgelina M. Boretto & Nora R. Ibargüengoytía

Abstract: Studies on reproductive modes, size at maturity, clutch size and clutch frequency have contributed greatly to our understanding of life history variation among lizard populations, and thereby, to implement conservation strategies. Herein, we studied the reproductive biology of the vulnerable tegu lizard Kentropyx viridistriga from Corrientes, northeastern Argentina (Wet Chaco). Kentropyx viridistriga are active from early summer to late autumn, with temperature and photoperiod influencing the timing of reproduction and the brumation period. Females showed an annual reproductive cycle, and males exhibited a continuous reproductive cycle during the activity season. Females laid at least two clutches of on average three eggs per reproductive season. Neonates occured in spring, and reached sexual maturity in the first year of life. Females reached sexual maturity at a larger snout-vent length (64.1 mm) than males (54.8 mm). Sexual dimorphism is evident, with males showing greater head size and longer tails than females, while females exhibit larger interlimb length than males. This study reveals that the reproductive strategy of K. viridistriga is adjusted to the environmental conditions of the southernmost distribution for the genus.

Key words: life history, Kentropyx viridistriga, reproductive cycle, Squamata, Teiidae

pdf 08. Appendix


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Online appendix for 08. Habitat use by grass snakes and three sympatric lizard species on lowland heath managed using ‘conservation grazing’.

pdf 08. Habitat use by grass snakes and three sympatric lizard species on lowland heath managed using ‘conservation grazing’


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pp. 131-138

Authors: Christopher J. Reading & Gabriela M. Jofré

Abstract: Cattle grazing is being used increasingly by landowners and statutory conservation bodies to manage heathlands in parts of mainland Europe and in the UK, where it is called ‘conservation grazing’. Between 2010 and 2013, cattle were excluded from six hectares of lowland heath, in southern England, that had been subject to annual summer cattle grazing between May 1997 and autumn 2009. Changes in grass snake Natrix natrix, common lizard Zootoca vivipara, slow worm Anguis fragilis and sand lizard Lacerta agilis numbers were recorded annually in the ungrazed area and in a four hectare area of heathland adjacent to it that continued to be grazed. The number of grass snake, common lizard and slow worm sightings were significantly higher in the ungrazed heath than the grazed heath and were associated with increased habitat structure, resulting principally from increased height and cover of grasses, particularly Molinia caerulea. Conversely, there was no significant difference in the number of adult sand lizard sightings between the grazed and ungrazed heath though sighting frequency was inversely correlated with both grass and grass litter cover. Our results suggest that the use of cattle grazing as a management tool on lowland heath is detrimental to grass snake, slow worm and common lizard populations but may be less so to adult sand lizards. Although newborn slow worms and common lizards were observed throughout the study area, significantly fewer were found in the grazed areas than the ungrazed areas. The absence of newborn grass snakes and sand lizards in the grazed areas suggests that successful breeding had not occurred in these areas.

Key words: Anguis fragilis, Calluna vulgaris, cattle grazing, habitat structure, Lacerta agilis, Molinia caerulea, Natrix natrix, Zootoca vivipara,

pdf 09. Calls and tadpoles of the species of Pseudis (Anura, Hylidae, Pseudae)


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pp. 139-148

Authors: Diego José Santana, Felipe de Medeiros Magalhães, Vinícius de Avelar São Pedro, Sarah Mângia, Talita Ferreira Amado & Adrian Antonio Garda

Abstract: The use of larval and bioacoustical characters has been essential to solve taxonomic problems of many anuran species. Herein, we describe the advertisement call and tadpoles of Pseudis fusca and P. tocantins and compare them with descriptions of all other Pseudae. The advertisement calls of Pseudis species are formed by pulsed notes. In P. cardosoi and P. minuta all pulses within a single note are concatenated, while in P. bolbodactyla, P. fusca, P. paradoxa and P. tocantins the notes are formed by sets of concatenated pulses. Moreover, the calls of P. bolbodactyla, P. fusca and P. paradoxa are indistinguishable. Tadpoles of P. fusca and P. tocantins resemble other Pseudis tadpoles described so far: their body is oval-shaped in dorsal view and triangular in lateral view and higher than wide; they possess an anteroventral oral disc with five tooth rows (two anterior and three posterior) and well developed tail musculature. The large larval size is in agreement with other species in the genus. We evaluate which characters best distinguish species within Pseudis.

Key words: bioacoustics, hydrographic basins, larvae, paradoxical frogs, taxonomy

pdf 10. Chemical discrimination of sympatric snakes by the mountain lizard Iberolacerta galani (Squamata: Lacertidae)


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pp. 149-155

Authors: Abraham Mencía, Zaida Ortega & Valentín Pérez-Mellado

Abstract: We conducted an experiment on chemical discrimination of two saurophagous snakes (the smooth snake, Coronella austriaca and the Seoane's viper, Vipera seoanei) as well as the aquatic Natrix maura, by the mountain lizard Iberolacerta galani. Using terraria, 24 lizards were exposed to scents by the three snakes as well as an odourless control. We quantified fourteen behavioural variables, twelve of which significantly differed among treatments. Lizards are able to recognise the scents of both predatory snakes, and react to them with intense antipredatory responses. The antipredatory behaviour found in I. galani was similar for the scents of the two different predatory snakes, despite differences in their foraging behaviour. The behaviour displayed by lizards confronted with chemical cues suggests an adaptation to minimise the likelihood of being attacked.

Key words: antipredatory behaviour, chemoreception, Iberolacerta galani, Lacertidae, Reptiles, Squamata

pdf 11. How to form a group: effects of heterospecifics, kinship and familiarity in the grouping preference of green and golden bell frog tadpoles


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pp. 157-164

Authors: Lígia Pizzatto, Michelle Stockwell, Simon Clulow, John Clulow & Michael Mahony

Abstract: Social aggregations are widespread among animal groups. They are relatively common in amphibian larvae, likely conferring protection against predators, advantages for microhabitat selection, foraging efficiency, and thermoregulatory efficiency. Group formation involves selection of individuals to group with by the other members, and several tadpoles are reported to recognise and prefer to aggregate with siblings or familiar individuals. In Australia, tadpoles of the endangered green and golden bell frog, Litoria aurea, are attracted to conspecifics and form schools. We conducted two choice experiments for captive breed tadpoles of this species to test their grouping preferences. Tadpoles preferred to aggregate with conspecifics to heterospecifics of a sympatric species; however, when conspecifics were absent they preferred to aggregate with the heterospecifcs than to remain alone. Tadpoles also preferred unfamiliar kin to unfamiliar non-kin conspecifics, but had no preferences between unfamiliar and familiar siblings. Once widespread in southeast Australia, the green and golden bell frog has suffered considerable declines and local extinctions in recent decades. Susceptibility to chytridiomycosis is likely the major threat for most remaining fragmented populations and the major challenge for reintroduction programs. The strong gregarious behaviour of this species may affect disease dynamics, especially chytridiomicosis that continues to threaten remaining wild populations.

Key words: amphibian, conspecific attraction, familiarity, grouping, kin recognition, Litoria aurea

pdf 12. Morphological variation within Thamnodynastes pallidus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Serpentes: Dipsadidae: Xenodontinae: Tachymenini)


Open Access

pp. 165-174

Authors: Romulo Pantoja Nóbrega, Giovanna Gondim Montingelli, Vivian Trevine, Francisco Luis Franco, Gustavo H.C. Vieira, Gabriel C. Costa & Daniel Oliveira Mesquita

Abstract: The genus Thamnodynastes is comprised of 19 valid species distributed throughout South America. Thamnodynastes pallidus is associated with the Amazon region and the Atlantic forest of northeastern Brazil, exhibiting a disjunct distribution. The characters employed in the definition of this species are controversial, and its morphological variation is poorly known. Some authors do not consider its distribution in the Atlantic Forest, attributing these specimens to T. almae. This study aims to compare the Amazonian and the Atlantic populations of T. pallidus by performing an analysis of morphological (colouration, morphometry, pholidosis and hemipenial morphology) and geographical variations. We examined 70 specimens of T. pallidus from the Atlantic Forest, and 61 from the Amazon Forest. A logistic regression selected the number of infralabials, number of subcaudals, and snout length as the only predictors that could discriminate the two populations. The distribution model shows regions with higher climatic suitability for T. pallidus spread across the Amazon basin and the Atlantic Forest. We provide sufficient evidence to characterise T. pallidus, and differentiate it from its congeners. Although we demonstrate the occurrence of variation with respect to some meristic and hemipenial characters between and within each population, we conclude that these variations are not sufficient to recognise them as distinct species.  

Key words: Amazon Forest, Atlantic Forest, hemipenis, pholidosis, South America, Squamata

pdf 13. Mitochondrial phylogeny of the Darevskia saxicola complex: two highly deviant evolutionary lineages from the easternmost part of the range


Open Access

pp. 175-182

Authors: David Tarkhnishvili, Mariam Gabelaia, Levan Mumladze & Marine Murtskhvaladze

Abstract: The rock lizards of the Darevskia saxicola complex are found exclusively in the west of the Greater Caucasus and in southern Crimea. The earliest split within this group occurred between D. saxicola from the northern and D. brauneri from the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus, followed by the split between D. brauneri and the Crimean D. lindholmi, and the expansion of D. saxicola to the westernmost slopes of the Greater Caucasus. We collected nominal D. brauneri from the two easternmost populations of the species range: the valleys of the Tekhuri and Enguri rivers in Georgia. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA showed that the lizards from both valleys are deeply differentiated from each other and from previously characterised D. brauneri. Lizards from Tekhuri keep a basal position within the clade D. saxicola (excluding D. praticola), and lizards from Enguri are closer matrilineally to the northern Caucasian D. saxicola than to either of the populations of nominal D. brauneri. Tekhuri lizards have broader heads and more small scales between the inner and outer rows of supraoculars than the other populations of the group. We suggest that the taxonomy of the group requires revision, considering the multiple deeply divergent mitochondrial lineages and introgressive gene flow between the continental populations of nominal D. saxicola and D. brauneri. The D. saxicola complex in the Caucasus resembles a “ring species” arrangement as described for other taxa and mountain regions.

Key words: Caucasus, cytochrome b, Darevskia, glacial refugia, mitochondrial DNA, scalation, Species Nova

pdf 14. Nest predation of the yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle (Podocnemis unifilis, Troschel, 1848) by the fire ant (Solenopsis geminata, Fabricius, 1804) in the Brazilian Amazon


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pp. 183-186

Authors: José Erickson & Fabrício Baccaro

Abstract: We report the effect of predation by the fire ant Solenopsis geminata on nests of the turtle Podocnemis unifilis in the Piagaçu Purus Sustainable Development Reserve, Amazonas, Brazil. During three consecutive breeding seasons (between September and October of 2012, 2013 and 2014), 492 nests were monitored and 95 (19.3%) were predated. Solenopsis geminata was the main predator, accounting for 65.26% (n=62) of the losses. Nest predation by ants was not correlated with soil exposition time. However, all P. unifilis nests predated by S. geminata were entirely covered by vegetation, suggesting that ants may select nests at specific microhabitat conditions. Studies on larger scales, including areas where S. geminata is naturally absent, are needed to develop an adequate management of P. unifilis.

Key words: fire ant, flooded forest, freshwater turtle, offspring

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